What the Electoral College Is and How It Works
Like many other facets of American politics, the Electoral College is the result of multiple compromises between political factions that don't exist anymore.
The original design for electing the president went by the Virginia Plan, and it called for Congress to elect the chief executive. This raised hackles at the Constitutional Convention among delegates from smaller states, which (rightly) feared the plan was a plot by Virginia (then the largest state by far) to monopolize the presidency. There were also concerns about the president's independence from the legislature if he was beholden to them for his job.
The obvious alternative, favored by James Madison and his allies, was direct election by popular vote. This was ultimately rejected because of the Three-Fifths Compromise: Briefly, the problem with direct election of the president in the 1780s was that the right to vote was far more widespread in the North than in the South.
If the President would be elected in a one-man-one-vote system, the wealthy Southerners who bought and sold people like mules would be massively outnumbered by Northerners and would probably have seceded decades before they actually did.
The Electoral College was the compromise. Under this system, each state's voters (which in the beginning may or may not have included poor people and nonwhites) vote to assign their state's heft to a candidate, who then becomes the President.
Doing it this way avoided the weakening of the presidency that Congressional elections would have caused, without disenfranchising half of the money in the country by swarming over the Southern planter vote.
This part of the system has barely changed in 230 years, and most states (except for Nebraska and Maine, which split their delegates) still have a first-past-the-post, winner-take-all system. This means that Republican votes in blue states are as insignificant as Democratic votes in red states, because it's the majority of votes in each state that determines which electors go to Washington for the real election in December.
Does your vote count? The Electoral College explained - Christina Greer
You vote, but then what? Discover how your individual vote contributes to the popular vote and your state's electoral vote in different ways--and see how votes are counted on both state and national levels.
Click here to WATCH this VIDEO
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